Another Sky took their name from an Emily Dickinson poem of the same title, a quick but well-known verse about looking forward to better things. And their music has become a reflection of just that; dark on a first reveal but tinged with poetic flashes of hope, all underpinned by gorgeous production that the band themselves are largely responsible for.
At the centre of it all is Catrin Vincent, Another Sky’s singer, whose voice is nothing short of heart-stopping. The band’s new album I Slept On The Floor has her talents on full display, belting and whispering in equal measure, spinning arresting tales about her conservative upbringing and her dreams for a better future. It’s hard not to listen with total intent.
In our interview Catrin was much more jovial, happy to get a little serious but more comfortable when we were joking about weird Youtube niches or her studio space that was flooded by a (presumably) illegal weed farm upstairs. We talked at length about her creative ambitions, her distaste around having a public persona, and why performing in total darkness is so enticing.
iPhone notes and studios flooded by weed farms: find out more about Catrin Vincent, Another Sky, and the band’s incredible new album I Slept On The Floor.
HAPPY: So I couldn’t find any personnel listed for I Slept On The Floor, do you self-record?
CATRIN: Yeah, a lot of the songs. We had an executive producer who recorded four of the songs, and the rest we recorded and he sent us feedback. So we’ve self-recorded a lot and we’re hopefully thinking of self-recording on the second album if we think it’s going to be a wise choice.
HAPPY: Amazing, is there a central setup you’re working out of?
CATRIN: We have a studio now, it’s been an eventful time… there was a flood in it.
HAPPY: What? You’re serious?
CATRIN: And we thought we’d have to move studio, and we don’t know how this has gone through but somehow we’ve bagged an even better studio in the same building for the same price. It was an amazing story! A cannabis farm above it flooded the whole thing.
HAPPY: No way.
CATRIN: I know, we were like ‘what is happening?’ Not even sure if I’m allowed to say about the cannabis farm, definitely wasn’t anything to do with us.
HAPPY: It was on the level above… I’m sure you never even knew it was there. That sounds like the biggest recording nightmare possible.
CATRIN: Well it was the complex, so a lot of our mates’ studios got damaged and somehow, we were ok. Luckily our studio was fine. It can really ruin your life if you’re a musician, because a lot of the time you can’t afford insurance. So that’s interesting.
HAPPY: To ask a single audio question before we move on… it’s about the title track. I wanted to ask how you recorded the vocals because the chorus, or the doubling, that you’re doing, sounds amazing.
CATRIN: Thank you so much! It was actually at Christmas that this song was recorded and I was very stressed because it’s not usually me who’s manning the desk, but everyone was away. So I had this song that was an interlude for our live shows and I’d bought this vintage Roland vocoder, and it sounds messed up – and I kind of like it. It’s really gritty and abrasive and robotic, so I layered that down just singing live into a mic with the keyboard, and we’re pretty sure I sang into the mic the wrong way around, so that’s a funny story about that track, but that’s why the vocals are so roomy.
We did it intentionally of course… but it was a live take so we tried to re-record the live vocal sound but it didn’t work. Then there’s this plugin I love called PaulStretch, it was heavily used by Jon Hopkins on his album Immunity, there’s this sort of reverb, it sounds like vocal reverb but it’s just PaulStretch. It sounds like a choir, but on cassette. Sorry, this is a lot.
HAPPY: By all means, I love talking shop. Not to mention I’m a massive Jon Hopkins fan, so I’ll have to check out that plugin.
CATRIN: It lets you slow down things by, like 400%, so if you’ve ever searched on Youtube ‘Justin Bieber 5000% slower’, that’s PaulStretch.
HAPPY: That’s what that is! Because that’s an obsessive little Youtube community.
CATRIN: That’s it.
HAPPY: Do you have any spaces other than your studio spots, as in the outside world, where you go to be inspired?
CATRIN: We actually recorded some of the songs at Chale Abbey Studios on the Isle of Wight which is probably the best recording studio ever. It’s residential, this converted barn/church thing, and I mean, we could sleep in the control room. We could just make music until 2am and then go to the beaches. Jack, our guitarist, is actually from the Isle of Wight, and now I’d say we all have a special place in our heart for the Isle of Wight. It’s an interesting place, have you ever been?
HAPPY: Can’t say I have.
CATRIN: When I met Jack I didn’t even know it existed. It’s this island off the bottom of the UK and it costs like £40 to get to, so if you grow up on the Isle of Wight you’re kind of stuck. But you’re stuck in this idyllic place where everywhere you walk there’s a beach and nature. So I’d say the songs we wrote there were really powerful because of the nature and where we were. I think getting outside of London was actually quite important to us.
HAPPY: Now I’m assuming you’re a fan of literature because of your band name, so do you read much and is that another source of inspiration?
CATRIN: Massively. I’m not the most intellectual person when it comes to reading, but reading is probably my second love after music. I feel like authors can say everything I’m trying to say but better, I’m always quoting them in lyrics.
HAPPY: And do you have any writing rituals, like a pen or a place that you keep coming back to? Something you need in a ritualistic way.
CATRIN: To be honest – iPhone notes! I have little departments and if I hear someone say something interesting, I write down a lot of conversations. Things I hear, bits of conversations, things people say, and things I find kind of fascinating. So that would be my ritual, just trying to document everything, which can be annoying because you can never just live your life, you’re always like ‘oh hang on, that was really interesting, I’m going to write that down’, and everyone’s like ‘what? Why are you writing down what I’m saying?’ And I’m obsessed with words, I’ve got a note on my iPhone called ‘pretty words’ and I make sure I keep a bank of them.
HAPPY: So you’ve got ‘pretty words’, you’ve got ‘interesting conversations’, what else is in there?
CATRIN: There’s ‘brainstorm’, it’s been called that for years and I don’t know why I originally called it brainstorm but it’s got all the lyric ideas I’ve ever come up with. If I scroll through it, it’s big now, but I can see where the lyrics for Avalanche came from, I can recycle ideas… it’s really useful actually.
HAPPY: It’s amazing to have that archive. The longer you go on, the more valuable it’s going to get.
CATRIN: I think so too. Sometimes with lyrics I think maybe it’s not worth writing down, but I always leave it in there.
HAPPY: Document everything, it’s too easy to lose stuff these days. Going back to your playing in darkness… do you think this contemporary idea that musicians need to be ‘the face’, like a public figure, is working to a lot of people’s detriment?
CATRIN: I actually do, yeah. I do think that. I don’t want to be seen, I’m not an interesting person to look at. I mean the other guys are, I’m only talking on behalf of myself, but I was saying this in another interview – I liked the feeling of not being watched. That’s why we played in darkness for a while, it just became really difficult because people want to see someone to emotionally experience the music. So it was quite good for a while because we were performing in darkness and we could play whatever we wanted, the focus became completely on the music, and then suddenly that was taken away from us. And I’m not interested in fashion, or anything like that, but you do you have to start caring about it, especially when people start taking photos of you all the time. So I would love a world where it didn’t matter, and I’d wonder if there was a way to make that happen.
HAPPY: A lot of musicians find anonymity appealing, but I find it interesting where people draw the line. For instance you drew the line onstage, but some people draw the line completely and never attach their name or face to anything. Do you think it can be useful or empowering for people to draw that line? ‘This is how much of me you get.’
CATRIN: I think it’s necessary. As a band when we first released music we tried the whole anonymous thing and unfortunately, no one cared! So we had to start revealing ourselves and that is really difficult because I feel like there’s no actual line between your actual life and your music. You start almost playing a caricature of yourself, I’ve definitely found that I’m playing into things that I’ve noticed people like about my personality. And you do start to wonder if I wasn’t doing music or entertainment, who would I be? Because I wouldn’t be performing, this is a constant performance. As we progress in our career I’m sure it’s going to become a bigger and bigger problem. And also, I have Twitter. So I’m also like, oh god, I’m sure I didn’t post anything weird but I don’t know. For artist now who’ve grown up with the internet and have put embarrassing things on the internet, I think that’s going to be really interesting as well.
HAPPY: Something to finish on, let’s talk about the Emily Dickinson poem you took the band name from. You chose the name a long time ago but the themes of the poem play really succinctly into the new album. How far ahead were you looking when you named the band?
CATRIN: We didn’t want to settle on a name that we didn’t click with. There were names such as Twin which seemed cool at the time but when we’d actually written a song called after an Emily Dickinson poem, someone said ‘what about Another Sky’ and we just thought, yes! That sums it up, and for me it sums up this feeling of desperation and hope that runs through all our music. It felt like we were saying “there is another sky” as Emily said, and that sounds so wanky and clichéd but I feel like the music is always reaching for another sky. We’re not necessarily beneath it, but that’s what we’re trying to portray, but there’s alternatives.
HAPPY: Well cool, I know too many people who’ve come to hate their band name. But it seems like you picked a good one.
CATRIN: Thank you, that’s good to hear. It’s so hard now! Everything’s copyrighted, I can’t believe Another Sky wasn’t.
I Slept On The Floor is out now via Fiction Records / Caroline Australia. Stream the album here.